Bringing New Life to Arts Education

Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School principal Job Grotsky (left) poses with the Marquee Brass Ensemble. (Provided)

When it was founded in 1950, Young Audiences, tasked with introducing children to classical music through interactions with professional musicians, was housed in Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. In later years, Young Audiences branched out from classical music into the general arts and became independent, removing itself from Peabody, the first cultural center in a major U.S. city and the oldest conservancy in the country.

In December, this partnership was revived between Peabody and Young Audiences, which now encompasses a variety of arts programming, “to bring classical music and opera to students and classrooms in Baltimore City and throughout the state,” according to a news release.

This new initiative makes two musical programs — Marquee Brass and the Peabody Opera Theatre — available to all 181 city schools.

According to the release, Marquee Brass will be performing its “Sounds of Music” and “Paths of Music” programs for students, and the Peabody Opera Theatre will be putting on a shortened, fully costumed production of “Papageno,” staged and cast by Peabody students.

“Many students have never seen an opera, so this is a fun, digestible way to introduce it to the kids,” said Fred Bronstein, dean of the Peabody Institute. “The Marquee Brass program features all kinds of music from classical to popular. They are introducing students to the instruments, to different composers, to different styles of music in a fun, engaging way. When these kids see young performers, they can relate more; they can see themselves in that position.”

For the past 18 months, Peabody has been developing a new curriculum, Bronstein said.

“I see Peabody’s relationship with the community as an important two-way street,” he said. “We want to engage and bring music to different audiences in different situations — it is an important part of the training of these musicians. Both the students and the community get something from it; it is symbiotic. As any major cultural institution must do, we see these communities as an extension of the classroom.”

One of Peabody’s major goals is to focus on developing more partnerships in the community such as the new program with Young Audiences. The renewed partnership is a natural fit — each of their missions is educate and bring invaluable arts experiences to students.

“It really is wonderful to see our work intersect again,” said Stacie Sanders, executive director of Young Audiences. “Over the years we have expanded beyond classical music and performances, but we always want to be connected to our roots with Peabody and in classical music.”

A Marquee Brass musician performs for students. (Provided)

“We really see artists as a catalyst for inspiration in our classrooms and schools,” she continued. “The more we can do to connect the artists and musicians to these schools, the richer the education will be as a result. We use music and the arts to transform learning and inspire kids in the classroom. It creates a spark in imagination and curiosity that motivates and engages kids in whatever content is being covered.”

Young Audiences is one of the leaders in arts-integrated instruction, a teaching method in which the arts are taught in conjunction with another academic subject. One example is using percussion and measuring beats per second as a way to break down fractions. Another might be using hip-hop or rap in a classroom, where a musician teaches students how to summarize text using rhyming couplets.

“What we have seen through the academy is that kids retain the information better when you deliver it in that way,” said Sanders. “It is multisensory, it is challenging, and it is fun. Learning usually becomes more relevant and meaningful because they tap into their own creativity.”

Ultimately, the goal of both organizations is to expose more local students to the arts and to other ways of learning.

To Eric Pripstein, who has served on the board of Young Audiences for 26 years, it is important that education goes beyond the books.

“Some kids learn differently, and [music] resonates differently,” he said. “That kid who is a great musician may not be the best at science. The idea is not to be a one-shot deal, but to create ripples and be a tool for education. I am hoping that each of these performances resonates with a kid or two and changes their thinking.”

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